When Peter Iain Ramage signed for Crystal Palace on a one-year contract in August 2012, even as a Crystal Palace fan I have to say I was left feeling somewhat uninspired!
I had witnessed the Whitley Bay born defender in action for ‘The Eagles’ during his five month loan spell with us during the 2011/12 season. To be fair to Ramage during that time (which included 17 league appearances) he tended to be used by the then manager Dougie Freedman as a ‘utility’ player, and he flitted between the full-back and centre-half positions.
|Ramage - In the form of his life!|
As a result the 29 year-old had little opportunity to put a marker down, and establish himself in an ever changing back-four. In the first-half of the 2011/12 season Palace were in a defensive mess as they juggled numerous players in an attempt to find a settled back-four. By the time Ramage’s loan period had come to an end on the 15th January 2012, he had played with 11 different defensive partners in McCarthy, Davies, Tunchev, McGivern, Gardner, Clyne, Keinan, Eagan, Parsons, Moxey and Parr.
However Freedman had no hesitation in re-signing the Geordie lad for the start of the 2012/13 campaign. The signing of Ramage may have been initially as cover following the loss of Club captain Paddy McCarthy. McCarthy sustained a groin injury in the summer, and as I write is still sidelined and has yet to feature in a first-team game this season.
However it has proved to be an inspired signing as the player affectionately known as ‘Rambo’ has played a pivitol role in a wonderful season so far for the boys from SE25.
Rambo has established a solid, no nonsense central defensive partnership with Irishman Damien Delaney (right) this season, and his passion and desire is written all over his face during the heat of battle! Ramage has started 31 of 33 league games this season, come on as a substitute in another and since our opening day defeat to Watford at Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace are unbeaten at home this season, a run of 16 games at ‘Fortress Selhurst.’
It must be said that several of the reasons for the success on the pitch this season can be attributed to confidence, attitude, belief and fitness. But unlike last season stability in defence in terms of personnel has been crucial.
Before Palace signed Delaney from Ipswich on the 31st August, Ramage was paired at the heart of the defence with Aaron Martin a loanee from Southampton, but Palace lost their opening three league games of the season conceding nine goals in the process. Upon his arrival Delaney was immediately paired with Ramage and the two have been inseparable ever since, other than a three game suspension handed to the Irishman for seeing red at Huddersfield just before Christmas.
Despite the upheaval with the departure of the rather flaccid Dougie (the grass is not always greener on the other side) Freedman and the backroom staff to Bolton in late October, and the subsequent arrival of the flamboyant Ian Holloway as his replacement in the managerial hot seat, Rambo has rolled with it all, without flinching or suffering any long term heartbreak! In fact Holloway’s arrival has probably seen Ramage develop as a player due to the Bristolian’s style of play, which allows players to express themselves a lot more by playing a fluid passing game with the emphasis on getting forward more often, rather than strangling the life out of a 1-0 lead!
Ramage has even contributed with some rare but vital goals this season. He has in fact scored twice as many goals for Crystal Palace this season than he has over his entire professional career, having made his first-team debut for Newcastle United as a substitute in a UEFA Cup tie on the 16th March 2005.
His first goal in the red and blue of Palace came at The Walkers Stadium in October, as the Londoner's turned over the then league leaders Leicester City 2-1. Ramage then bagged a consolation goal in a 2-1 defeat at Leeds in November, before netting a vital goal at Watford this month, followed by a second goal in consecutive games as Palace thrashed Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park last week. His smart turn and shot against Boro’ was a goal that any striker would have been proud of, and it was also his first goal for the club at Selhurst Park.
On the pitch Rambo is the consummate professional, whilst off the pitch he comes across as a great lad, a family man who will always takes time out to chat to the fans and someone who loves a bit of banter with his team-mates. I imagine he is an inspirational, yet calming figure in the dressing room and someone that all the lads, particularly the youngster’s look up to!
He is also becoming somewhat of an unlikely favourite among the fans. You cannot as a football fan fail to revere a man who gives everything, a player who wears his heart on his sleeve and plays for the badge on his chest.......and who always goes to, and applauds the fans at the end of every match!
Rambo you are a credit to yourself and Crystal Palace Football Club and you won’t be far off winning this season’s Palace ‘Player of the Year’ award as voted for by us, the fans!
You can follow Peter Ramage on twitter or find him after training at most good coffee outlets, with Damien Delaney and Andre Moritz!
Pictures courtesy of: FiveYearPlanFanzine.co.uk and RednBlueArmy.co.uk